Bad fences make bad neighbors for the Cherry Creek Farm HOA and its residents

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But the meeting wasn't over — far from it.

After the fence issue was dismissed, homeowner and board vice president Tracy Alvarez brought up the subject of a backyard patio enclosure that Myers had been chipping away at for five years. She asked him when he was going to request approval, per the association's rules, for the project. Since the enclosure couldn't be seen from the street, and because he had never been asked about it before, Myers says he was stunned by the questions and got into it with Alvarez. As the minutes read: "[Tom Myers] and a member of the board then exchanged words, and another homeowner present expressed her displeasure with how the meeting had been handled."

Myers's memory of the spat was a little less muffled. As he recalls it, Alvarez verbally attacked him, calling his home "a slum" and "a shithole."

Alvarez admits to the language, but says she was goaded by Tom's attorney, Craig Chambers. "Actually, I called it a slum because that's what it looked like," she says now. "I called it a slum, and his attorney called me a racist, which I took offense to. I think that he was mistaking the word "slum" for "ghetto," which is not a racist word, either. I did feel because I'm Jewish that he shouldn't have said that to me, so I said, 'Would you prefer that I called it a shithole?,' which I should not have said.

"It was in the heat of the moment," she adds. "If you had seen his house at that point, you might have called it the same thing."

Chambers denies calling Alvarez a racist, but says he alluded to the historical racial connotation of the word "slum." "Probably I shouldn't have said that, but she has no business being on the board. She has a responsibility to the board to be professional.

"And the thing is, it's a really nice house, and all they've done in this whole thing is try to make their house nicer," he adds. "I should be lucky to have a shithole like that. I mean, it's nicer than my house."

Another homeowner at the following meeting asked the board to apologize to Myers, but it didn't. However, Alvarez says she did apologize to homeowners at the next meeting, but didn't feel like she owed Myers the same courtesy. By the time summer rolled around, Myers and his feud with Alvarez and the HOA had become hot neighborhood gossip, and alliances had formed between neighbors and the board.

And that's when things got really weird.

Prior to the May board meeting, the HOA had sent Myers a letter demanding that he paint his entire house. As is the case with most HOA regulations, CCF covenants require homeowners to adjust their properties when asked so the community will retain its property values. But the Myerses had painted their home — "Russian River," a board-approved color — just three years earlier and didn't understand why they were being asked to do it again.

Rather than comply, Myers wrote back, asking to what extent the HOA wanted him to fix up his place and accusing the board of acting "arbitrarily and capriciously." "What were the criteria?" he asks. He felt the HOA had singled him out personally.

The HOA didn't respond to the rebuttal, in which Myers also asked for a customary hearing that homeowners are allowed. "They never responded to my letter, so I thought it was moot," he says. Instead, the HOA handed the issue over to TMMC, the management company that gets $2,000 a month to handle the nitty gritty of covenant control for Cherry Creek Farm. TMMC then sent a letter, via its attorney, demanding that Myers not only paint his home, but also remove lumber from the back yard and finish the work on his deck. TMMC charged Myers $185 in legal fees for the attorney's letter.

Myers continued to challenge the demands by mail until September 2008, when the board got a court order against him. (At this point, he had still not painted his home or asked for approval to work on his deck.) But on November 13, the day Myers was supposed to face the HOA in court, TMMC's lawyers didn't show up.

TMMC spokeswoman Denise Haas wouldn't comment, but Myers suspects the company didn't appear because it had never expected a homeowner to fight back.

So Myers and his attorney decided to file a countersuit against the HOA, alleging "intrusion of privacy," "outrageous conduct" and violations of Colorado's Common Interest Ownership Act, the primary law governing HOAs.

And at that point, Myers says, the other residents of Cherry Creek Farm starting paying attention. "What kind of happened in the neighborhood is, nobody really paid attention to the board. I think that our lawsuit started to enrage people."

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J. David McSwane
Contact: J. David McSwane